In 1989, Mordechai Alvow flew from his native Israel, where he had served in the Army and Air Force, to Los Angeles with an unexpected American dream. "It was the '80s, and the big influences were rock groups with that big, curly hair," Alvow told Refinery29. "I remember watching videos of these rock groups and I said, Oh ok, this is my new thing, I'm gonna go to L.A., and I'm going to do hair for music videos."
Within his first six months in the city, he landed a gig doing hair on the set of Whitesnake's "Is This Love" video. Alvow teased lead singer David Coverdale's curls, and unloaded enough hairspray on the backup dancers to do environmental damage.
Fast forward 29 years and Alvow is about as far away from sexy, sweaty '80s music videos as humanly possible. He is now the personal hairstylist to Melania Trump, the First Lady of the United States – and wife to the most controversial President in modern history – and is responsible for doing her hair for all major public events, including international trips and State Dinners. For a woman who's largely kept her life, opinions, and East Wing private, and remains an enigma to the general public despite her elevated role in the White House, Alvow is one of the few people who's stayed in close and consistent contact with her.
Because of his proximity to Trump and her husband, Alvow has recieved criticism from close friends about his decision to work with such a divisive administration. This is something that Ivanka Trump's longtime makeup artist, Alexa Rodulfo, who is a Mexican immigrant, has also experienced. For his critics, he has one response: To each their own. "That's why I choose to live in this country," Alvow says. "Freedom of speech is super important, like it or not. We all have an option and it's OK as long as we respect each other."
Alvow's been working with Trump for 12 years, ever since Vogue Japan sent him to Mar-a-Lago to do the former model's hair for a bridal spread in late 2005. "She was just known as Donald Trump’s wife at the time," Alvow said. "I drove myself to Mar-a-Lago and I remember that we hit it off. She was very impressed with how I did the hair, and she asked me if she can call me on a regular basis, and I said 'yes."
Though it'd be natural for him to feel extra pressure working with Trump these days, given that she is now one of the most recognizable women on Earth, Alvow says he hasn't felt a change – except now he's doing her hair in the White House, or in hotel rooms while they're abroad together. "The fact that we've known each other for a really long time before this thing happened has created some comfort and trust," Alvow says.
Alvow has been more than just a hairstylist for Trump, but a business partner as well. He worked with the Slovenia native on her skin-care line, which faded away before the election. Now, with rare direct access to the quiet and reserved FLOTUS, he serves as her confidant.
During their sessions, Alvow says that he and Trump talk about hair, fashion, energy, spirituality (he practices Kabbalah), exercise routines, and food. And, yes, there are times when the conversation turns political, too. "I’m not the one encouraging conversations in that direction, only because I know that her head is so involved in so many things that I don't want to impose anything," Alvow says. "But yes, when she was looking to choose a name [for Be Best, Trump's initiative to improve kids' social, emotional, and physical health in light of toxic social media and the opioid epidemic], we talked about [the initiative]. We do talk about when she’s with the schools; she tells me about her experience and what she encounters."
For a woman who once did her makeup over a gold-plated sink and wears $51,000 jackets to world summits, her hair products are surprisingly cheap. Alvow uses his own hair-care brand, Yarok Hair, including his Feed Your Ends leave-in conditioner for shine, Feed Your Roots mousse for volume, and Feed Your Hold hair spray to set it all in place. All those products cost less than $20.
According to Alvow, Trump is a woman who knows exactly what she wants, and wants to look like — and there's purpose behind every strand. "When someone is going to be in the eyes of the public and will constantly be on the news, there is a look that people want to understand and be comfortable with and associate with," Alvow says. "She’s not like a performer. There is a look about her where it’s almost like she’s the mother of the public. You want your mother to have one steady look."